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From: "Daniel Fusch" <dfusch@hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) the point of it all
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 1999 21:16:13 PST

Well, argued, Cliff.

But I disagree.

"I have always thought that this story illustrates the fact that there is 
not always a happy ending, and in  many cases, no 'ending' at all."

Well, if this is the case, then why does this mini-story end with Severian's 
promise to Foila that he will record, remember, and tell the four stories? 
By doing this, he ensures that Foila and the rest will live on--will have 
immortality, via the stories. They will be remembered, even if only in the 
sense that their stories are remembered. This is Literature in a 
nutshell--the stories are to be preserved and retold. And because of this, 
Foila's death is not a complete end. The storyteller has achieved 
immortality through her story.

So I still argue that the point here has to do with storytelling.

"This, to me, is the ultra-refined meaning of
the Urth Books. The Grand Unification Theory, if you will."

I think agree with your notion that the vast and intricate mysteries of 
Severian's narrative are meant as a Zen-like comment on our final inability 
to pin down and define life. It seems to me that it is also a comment on 
storytelling (again!). Either a) there are mysteries because we can never 
fully know the whole story, or b) there are mysteries because a story can 
never be wholly and completely told by the storyteller.

In a way, this is saying the same thing as "life is full of things we will 
never fully grasp" -- but I think this is a commentary on storytelling, as 
well. After all, storytelling is the human attempt to define life and invest 
life with meaning. If we can never fully grasp life, it is because we can 
never fully tell our stories. Modernism is an exploration of this concept 
(here comes The Sound and the Fury again!).

If you like, the four stories represent four perspectives on life. No story 
is judged above the others because all four are valid, worthwhile, useful, 
and beautiful perspectives.

I think this part of Wolfe's work owes more to modernism than to zen, 

It may be that in the end is merely ridiculous to say "It's not about life; 
it's about storytelling" or "It's not about storytelling; it's about life" 
-- because those two subjects are really one subject.

Back to you, Cliff.


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